imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) , -ˌne-rē \

Definition of imaginary

1a : existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality
b : formed or characterized imaginatively or arbitrarily his canvases, chiefly imaginary, somber landscapesCurrent Biography
2 : containing or relating to the imaginary unit imaginary roots

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Other Words from imaginary

imaginarily \ i-​ˌma-​jə-​ˈner-​ə-​lē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \ adverb
imaginariness \ i-​ˈma-​jə-​ˌner-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for imaginary

imaginary, fanciful, visionary, fantastic, chimerical, quixotic mean unreal or unbelievable. imaginary applies to something which is fictitious and purely the product of one's imagination. an imaginary desert isle fanciful suggests the free play of the imagination. a teller of fanciful stories visionary stresses impracticality or incapability of realization. visionary schemes fantastic implies incredibility or strangeness beyond belief. a fantastic world inhabited by monsters chimerical combines the implication of visionary and fantastic. chimerical dreams of future progress quixotic implies a devotion to romantic or chivalrous ideals unrestrained by ordinary prudence and common sense. a quixotic crusade

Examples of imaginary in a Sentence

The two groups were separated by an imaginary line down the middle of the room. an imaginary world of dragons and unicorns
Recent Examples on the Web But while that plan is still purely imaginary, Demeyer will soon be leaving his actual storybook home in Bruges behind. Dieter Van Den Storm, ELLE Decor, "See the Whimsical Interiors of This Medieval Hunting Lodge Before It’s Too Late," 24 Mar. 2021 That little pep in your step isn't imaginary, and this surge of energy is particularly strong for the first sign of the zodiac. Erin Parker, Glamour, "Gifts for Aries: 25 Ideas for the Fiercest Sign in the Zodiac," 23 Mar. 2021 But in an age when numbers are fudged and so much about the league is imaginary? Mike Finger, San Antonio Express-News, "Finger: In league of mirages, could Cowboys' stability be real?," 16 Mar. 2021 But this gatekeeper isn’t so imaginary, as Armenian American writer Liana Aghajanian mentioned on the Extra Spicy podcast a few weeks ago. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, "Too Asian, not Asian enough: the challenges of writing restaurant reviews as a person of color," 15 Mar. 2021 Currently, though, their brownstones are mostly imaginary. Jack Denton, Curbed, "L.A. Start-up Advertises Nonexistent One-Quarter Bedrooms in Brooklyn Heights," 3 Mar. 2021 The 4-0-0 start to the season is a distant memory, and the run to the Stanley Cup Final last September is now seemingly imaginary. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "In Stanley Cup Final rematch, Stars’ dismal February comes to a brutal end in shutout loss to Lightning," 27 Feb. 2021 In this imaginary scenario of all cars being painted red, apparently the red car as a speeding magnet is no longer going to hold true per se since all cars will be red and none sticks out more than any other. Lance Eliot, Forbes, "Self-Driving Cars Aiming To Change Our Most Favorite Of Car Colors," 20 Mar. 2021 My efforts to understand how imaginary numbers map onto the real world have led me, perversely, in the opposite direction. John Horgan, Scientific American, "I'm Agonizing over My Naive Realism," 19 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'imaginary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of imaginary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for imaginary

Middle English ymaginarie, borrowed from Latin imāginārius "unreal, fictitious (in law)," from imāgin-, imāgō "representation, semblance, image entry 1" + -ārius -ary entry 2

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Time Traveler for imaginary

Time Traveler

The first known use of imaginary was in the 15th century

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Statistics for imaginary

Last Updated

6 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Imaginary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for imaginary



English Language Learners Definition of imaginary

: not real : existing only in your mind or imagination


imag·​i·​nary | \ i-ˈma-jə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Kids Definition of imaginary

: existing only in the imagination : not real an imaginary world


imag·​i·​nary | \ im-ˈaj-ə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce imaginary (audio) \

Medical Definition of imaginary

: existing only in imagination : lacking factual reality imaginary fears an imaginary illness

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Comments on imaginary

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